The change of regime has provided some relief to people in respect of decrease in the incidence of violence and civilian killings. The administration looks to be engaged in attending to people’s grievances and finding out ways to redress these. But the challenges are many.
The previous governments seemed to have been too busy with security concerns to give any attention towards economic problems. The economy of the state is in no happy state of affairs. Besides agriculture, including horticulture, the main stakes of Kashmir’s economy have been tourism and handicraft sectors. During these years of turmoil, tourism has had many ups and downs. It needs a herculean effort to instill a fresh life in it. Of course, peace is a pre-requisite, but much needs to be done towards improving basic infrastructure, towards providing better atmosphere and to counter the adverse propaganda, that has been a spoiler. As far as handicraft sector is concerned, it has suffered because of competition with machine produced artefacts/goods, lack of incentive, government’s indifferent attitude and failure of the artisans to keep up the standards. A massive effort is needed to rejuvenate the sector. The comprehensive programme would include providing subsidy to artisans, training in skill development and facilities for sale and export of goods.
Environmental concerns are demanding urgent and tangible measures to avert the disastrous consequences of environmental degradation. What is shocking is that inspite of government spending a lot of money on saving water bodies, especially Dal Lake, and on dredging and embankment of river Jhelum, the results have been disappointing. No guess is needed to know the reason. Lately, administration seems to have become conscious of large scale encroachment of government lands, on water bodies, as if it happened in a day. The moot question is – can the government set right the messy and tangled situation?
The people of Kashmir demonstrated an unprecedented solidarity on the issue of challenges to Article 35A. All shades of opinion, mainstream or separatists were united in calling for a shut down as a protest against any intended tampering of Article 35A, that protects the rights and privileges of the state subjects of the state. The Supreme Court has adjourned the case, and is likely to transfer the case to a Constitutional Bench.
Last, but not the least, is the matter of relationship with Pakistan. Though cease-fire violations have not completely stopped, yet the frequency of these has been reduced. Now, that Pakistan’s elections are over, and the cricketer-cum-politician, Mr. Imran Khan is going to assume the mantle of Prime Minister of Pakistan, there are many speculations about his policies vis-à-vis India. The general view is that real power will be with the deep state – army. Yet it is to be seen how Imran Khan walks the path. New Delhi has done well in sending greetings and good wishes, with expectations of better relations. Imran Khan’s talking about Kashmir being the core issue is not a surprise, because every Pakistani leader has to chant this mantra. The real test is how he charts out his policy on mutual issues. So wait and watch.